SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – About 200 kids have enrolled in the South Walton Fire District’s Junior Lifeguard program, up from around 160 kids last year.

It’s Evelyn Tidwell’s first year as a junior lifeguard and she said she is learning a lot while having fun.

“When we first came here, we were doing a swim test. I really enjoy the run that we do every day. It’s fun,” Tidwell said. “We did relay races yesterday that were also really fun. We basically got in teams, went out with the soft tubes, and went around the buoy and came back. It was really fun.”

Kids ages 9 to 15 sign up to learn how to spot and survive a rip current, CPR, first aid, water rescues, and become stronger swimmers in the process.

“There’s a big big difference between ‘Yeah I can get into the water up to my knees’ and ‘I understand rip currents. I understand how to save myself. I understand how to stay calm,’ ” SWFD lifeguard Austin Wayne Lewis said. “That’s a big one just showing these guys `’Hey yeah you’re in a rip current. Yeah, you’re way over your head.’ but staying calm and not panicking is super super important for them.”

The 3-week program is offered in June and July.

South Walton Fire District Public Information Officer Mackenzie McClintock said they’ve seen many from the program become SWFD lifeguards once they turn 17.

“Junior lifeguards can one day become full-time lifeguards and we are seeing the programs pay dividends because ultimately it’s about instilling a love for beach safety and a culture in each of these little kids,” McClintock said.

To learn more about the program, or register your kids next year, visit the South Walton Fire District Junior Lifeguard Program Facebook page here.